French Island National Park
Just a short ferry ride from the Mornington Peninsula lies the small but fascinating French Island, two-thirds of it national park, which comprises a patchwork of environments – open woodlands, ﬂowering heath, salt marsh and mangroves. There are around 580 native plant species and an astonishing 100 varieties of orchid (most ﬂower in spring to summer). French explorers sailed into Bass Strait in 1802 and named the island Ile de Françoise, though the ﬁrst European settlement was not until around 1842. Chicory farming sustained the island for many years, and a small group of permanent residents still farm land here today. For several decades during the 1900s a prison farm was operated on the island.
French Island is known for its healthy population of koalas, the many long-nosed potoroos, and the proliﬁc birdlife, with more than 230 species as well as many migratory waders. Along the food-rich mudﬂats watch for ibis, herons and egrets and, from much further aﬁeld, the eastern curlew and red-necked stint.
The only vehicles permitted are the rangers’ cars and a few tour buses, and the leisurely pace means there is time to enjoy the island’s natural treasures. There is plenty to do. Walking, terriﬁc birdwatching, kayaking, snorkelling and swimming are potential activities, and there are guided tours on offer. Cycling is popular as the island is mainly ﬂat (though tracks can be sandy and a mountain bike is recommended). Check with the ranger for suggested cycling trails. Camping is at Fairhaven (toilets and fresh water). No wood campﬁres are permitted at any time. Accommodation options include farmstays and B&Bs.
Basic camping available
Location and access
75 km south-east of Melbourne via Hastings on Mornington Peninsula to Stony Point then ferry (no vehicles) to Tankerton on French Island; ferry timetable 0408 553 136
- PV 13 1963
- PV French Island (03) 5980 1294
11 100 ha
Tankerton and surrounds (03) 9585 5730
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